‘ … I climbed the stairs until I was high within the hotel and crept along a dank hallway with the floorboards creaking under the threadbare runner. I spied through a doorway to my left a tile inscribed Do not spit and smelt a breath of very old brickwork. From behind it came the porcelain echo of some poor bastard coughing his lungs out. My drinking companion from last night spotted me from over the corridor and croaked ‘in here.’

He was lying fully dressed on a bed in a room that stank of the stale grease from the bistro beneath the window. I stepped inside and looked around at the tiny chipped sink and the walls varnished yellow by a century of lonely cigarettes. I said, ‘The barman told me your name was Ryan.’ …’



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